Monday, April 02, 2012

Little fish that matter--forage

Scientists are now telling us that forage fish matter. It's not a new finding, but it's getting new emphasis.

What are forage fish and why are they important? Forage fish are "small to medium-sized species that include anchovies, herring, menhaden, and sardines." They're important because they "play a crucial role in marine food webs, preying on plankton and transferring energy up to marine mammals, seabirds and larger fish" according to the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force.

I think they're right overall, but something is troubling me about this notion. Everything is forage for something, so why the special emphasis for sardines and their like? Big fish are forage for marine mammals, and small marine mammals (seals) are forage for bigger marine mammals (orcas). Even the great whales are "forage" for chemosynthetic tube worms after the whales die and fall to the bottom of the ocean, and depletion of whales is a problem for the ecology of chemosynthetic tube worms.

To me, it seems like we're focusing the term "forage" on the prey of fish and birds and etc. that we like the most. Sport fishers that like to catch salmon and billfish want to save the forage of their preferred catch. Bird watchers want to save the food of the birds they like. I studied chemosynthetic tube worms (and clams) as a graduate student, and I want to save the forage of these worms, so whales are my favorite "forage" animals. So to me, save the forage means make sure lots of whales die natural deaths and fall to the bottom of the ocean. Harumph.

1 comment:

Fishing Blog said...

All part of the fish food chain. Thanks for sharing.